University marks 525th birthday with ambitious vision for the future

The University of Aberdeen will mark its 525th year today (February 10) with a special celebration which will also reveal the institution's future ambitions over the next two decades.

University staff, students and special guests will gather in Elphinstone Hall for the event which will mark some of the institution’s key milestones from the past before hearing how its future will unfold with the launch of the University’s new strategic vision - ‘Aberdeen 2040.

Aberdeen alumna and star of the BBC’s hit show Call the Midwife, Laura Main, will host the event which will set out the priorities to guide the direction the University will take over the coming 20 years.


University of Aberdeen Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor George Boyne, said:

“Since 1495 this great University has been ‘open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others’, and while it may be 525 years since we were established on those principles by Bishop William Elphinstone, that foundational purpose is still our driving force more than five centuries on.

“Today is about more than just celebrating what has gone before – although there are plenty of pioneering achievements to commemorate. It’s also about planning ahead, and following extensive collaboration with staff, students and stakeholders, the launch of our bold new strategic vision to tackle today’s global challenges.”


The university will continue to achieve its foundational purpose through education and research that have positive effects on Aberdeen, the North East and the wider world. Its education and research will be inclusive, interdisciplinary, international and sustainable. In each of these areas, the University is making five commitments, so 20 in total for the next 20 years. Some examples of these pledges are:


  • Inclusive –with a commitment to
    • widen access to study
    • eliminate pay gaps across all protected characteristics
    • collaborate with partners including businesses and community groups
  • Interdisciplinary
    • design new courses and programmes which encourage cross-discipline learning
    • work with external stakeholders to deliver solutions to societal and industrial challenges
  • International
    • become an even more diverse and multicultural community
    • ensure all students can have an international experience
  • Sustainable
    • encourage everyone within the community to work and live sustainably
    • excel in research that addresses the climate emergency, enables energy transition and preserves biodiversity
    • achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2040


The strategy also sets out five interdisciplinary challenges – practical problems where the University has the expertise and can make a significant impact. These are:

  • Energy transition
  • Health, nutrition and wellbeing
  • Social inclusion and cultural diversity
  • Data and artificial intelligence
  • Environment and biodiversity

Around 300 guests will hear from some of the staff who have helped develop the plan, and also gain insights into some of the work already under way in the four theme areas.

Senior Vice-Principal Professor Karl Leydecker, who coordinated the development of Aberdeen 2040, said:

“As a University, we are well placed to address the serious challenges that face today’s society whether that be the climate emergency, the transition to a net zero carbon economy, the need for research to address the United Nation’s Sustainable Goals, or by taking further steps around widening access to ensure higher education is open to all.

Aberdeen 2040 sets out our ambitions to tackle society’s grand challenges, as well as contribute to the prosperity of Aberdeen and the surrounding region, working for the good of the area which we were founded to serve.”

Professor Boyne added:

“It’s a truly dynamic time to study and work at the University of Aberdeen. We have just invested in 50 new academic posts to further bolster our world-class teaching and research capabilities and multi-million pound plans are also in place to revitalise and regenerate our King’s College campus. Our 525th birthday and the launch of Aberdeen 2040 are the latest steps towards what I am proud to say is a very exciting future.”

As well as the roll-out of Aberdeen 2040, the University is set to enjoy a year of celebratory activities, which include the launch of an ambitious campaign to recognise 525 university alumni, a host of 525 themed events and the unveiling of a special Porter’s 525 gin made with botanics from the University’s Cruickshank Botanic Garden.